Keeping Sugar in Balance

One of the challenges to health in modern cultures throughout the world is our access to refined sugar as processed and junk foods–candy, sodas, ice cream, cookies, and other baked goods. Industry is the pusher and many humans, especially children, are the addicted victims. I make it sound like a huge drug deal, because it is. Sugar is the number one drug on the planet Earth. (And the current sugar replacement, aspartame, has its own risks and damage.) Now, as the light wanes and the major holiday season is ahead, this brings out many sweet treats. These sweets will sit in us, stored as added body fat (in an already overweight population) unless we utilize the energy, which is usually short-lived, and sweat out the excess to keep current.


Some will experience another dark time addiction, trying to create more light with more appliances turned on. We overstimulate our brains with more television, computer time and higher electric bills. This brings on even more stress during the holiday season, which is the natural time of simplicity and shared joy with family and friends.


Fall is also the preparation time for Earth to receive the food that the elements have provided. Observe the many colors of the harvest and choose a variety to feed your inner rainbow. What is not used, returns to be remade once again in the promise of another flower, fruit or seed.


Here are some building tools for your healthy harvest; these encompass the awareness that you will be offered every sweet thing and every holiday distraction and temptation to overspend your personal energy and your resources. You may feel an imbalance in your ingestion and digestion allowance. Often, the sweet and processed foods look more enticing than the healthier foods, especially to the child in you. Learning what you are all about is the gift of tuning in, discovering your own vital life and light. However, much wisdom may be gained from extreme experience.


Ideas and Tips for Wise Sugar Use

1. Sugar is found in so many foods that are now available in the modern grocery stores and even natural food stores. It goes into food primarily as refined cane sugar (including brown sugars) and high-fructose corn syrup (the new leader of sugar consumption). More natural sugars include honey, maple syrup, malt sugar, date sugar, molasses, and others. Foods that are high in sugars should be used only as occasional Œtreats¹ in the diet, not as a main component of our food consumption. The best natural sugar may be the herb, stevia, also called sweetleaf. Some natural desserts include almonds, apples, and dates.


2. Traditional Chinese Medicine views the desire for sugar, or the sweet flavor, as a craving for the mother (yin) energy, a craving that represents a need for comfort or security. In Western cultures, we have turned sugar into a reward system (a tangible symbol of material nurturing) to the degree that many of us have been conditioned to need some sweet treat to feel complete or satisfied. We continue the pattern with our children, unconsciously showing our affection for them by giving them sugary foods. We do not want to unconsciously reinforce the Œtreat¹ pattern.


3. For most of us, sugar is a symbol of love and nurturance. As infants, our first food is lactose, or milk sugar. Over-consumption and daily use of sugar is the first compulsive habit for most everyone with addictions later in life. Simple sugar, or glucose, is what our body, our cells and brain, use for fuel for energy. Some glucose is stored in our liver and muscle tissues as glycogen for future use; excess sugar is stored as fat for use during periods of low-calorie intake or starvation. If we don¹t exercise or take periods of low calorie intake, the fat never disappears.


4. Our problem with sweets comes from the frequency with which we eat them, and the quantity of sugar we consume. The type of sugar we eat is also a contributing factor. Refined sugar or sucrose (a disaccharide made up of two sugars — glucose and fructose) is usually extracted from sugar cane or sugar beets, initially whole foods. However, most all of the nutrients are removed and retained only in the discarded extract called molasses. When the manufacturing process is complete, the result is pure sugar, a refined crystal that contains four calories per gram and essentially no nutrients.


5. Many nutritional authorities feel that the high use of sugar in our diet is a significant underlying cause of disease. Too much sweetener in any form can have a negative effect on our health; this includes not only refined sugar, but also corn syrup, honey and fruit juices, and treats such as sodas, cakes, and candies. Because sugary foods satisfy our hunger, they often replace more nutritious foods and weaken our tissue’s health and disease resistance via stressing our immune system.

6. The use of sugar in our culture sometimes resembles a drug, and can be treated as such. If you are Œhooked,¹ make a clear plan for withdrawal, while working emotionally to eliminate the habit. Our responses to certain flavors, and the feelings we get from them are usually conditioned. Self-reflection can be valuable when trying to understand these compulsions. To stop bad habits and see things clearly, we may need to talk these feelings through, transitioning from compulsion to a safe and balanced lifestyle. Talk to your hands and guide them to reach for healthier foods and snacks.


7. From my discussion last month about the Glycemic Index, quick-absorbing sugars are more of a concern with our blood sugar and energy. It may be helpful to consume some protein, such as a few nuts or nut butter, when eating some simple sugar like fruit, or easily assimilated carbohydrates like rice, bread, or potatoes. Remember to read those labels in the stores; there are loads of hidden sugars in items you wouldn¹t even think should have added sweetener, and concentrated sugars in some juice drinks.


8. If we do crave sugar, there are several supplements that can help us utilize the sugar better as well as reduce our desire for those sweets. These include the B vitamins (25-50 mg of most twice daily), vitamin C (500-1,000 mg twice daily, calcium (250-500 mg), and magnesium (150-300 mg). Chromium helps our body utilize the sugars more efficiently; it is usually supplemented in 100-200 mcg twice daily, in the morning and about 3pm. Also, the amino acid, L-glutamine (500-1,000 mg 2 to 3 times daily), helps to feed the brain and reduce sugar (and alcohol) cravings.


9. Drinking plenty of water is crucial to keep the body balanced and lessen cravings and addictions. An alkalinizing diet reduces cravings as well and helps with detoxification. Also, regular exercise does the same. Don¹t be afraid to move that body for fitness with active aerobics and weight training. Yoga stretches can also give you inner and outer strength to be your true self. Walking in Nature is another way to get in touch with your inner nature and gain your will power.


10. There are usually emotional issues around excess sugar and carbohydrate consumption, and being overweight. Be open to explore these areas as you attempt to heal your habits and create a healthier body and weight. A support group or a counselor can help in this healing process. Good luck and make wise choices!

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Elson M. Haas MD Written by Elson M. Haas MD

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